Words: Steve Brown
A penguin chick hatched by same-sex parents at SEA LIFE London aquarium to be raised as gender-neutral.
Earlier this year, the London attraction announced a couple of same-sex penguins had adopted a chick after exhibiting their readiness for parenthood.
Now the Gentoo penguin – which has yet to be named – has grown into a healthy adult and for the first time in the aquarium’s history, the chick will be raised gender neutral.
Although most new-born penguins are normally assigned a gender-based name, expert Aquarist decided it was more natural for the chick to grow and develop into a mature adult as genderless – which is reportedly normal in the wild until the chick has matured.
The four-month old chick has been tagged with its own purple band.
Graham McGrath, General Manager at SEA LIFE London, said: “While the decision may ruffle a few feathers, gender neutrality in humans has only recently become a widespread topic of conversation, however, it is completely natural for penguins to develop genderless identities as they grow into mature adults.
“What makes us really proud at the aquarium is the success of SEA LIFE London's Gentoo breeding programme and the amazing job of same sex penguins Rocky and Marama who took the chick under their wing and raised it as their own."
The Gentoo penguin chick is one of two to be born at SEA LIFE London this year, as part of its conservation programme.
As a result of climate change affecting Gentoo penguins feeding and nesting habits in their natural environment, Gentoo penguins have near-threatened status in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species so the birds at SEA LIFE London play a critical role in marine conservation.
As the adopted chick matures it may become part of this breeding program depending on the gender its biology determines.